new poem and feature at Portrait of New England!

I’m thrilled to share the new issue of Portrait of New England, which includes my poem “State Line” and my very first published interview!

Those of you who are regular readers here at Top of JC’s Mind know that I usually post here about the story behind the writing of my published poems but the featured Q&A handles that, with shout-outs to the Boiler House Poets Collective and MASS MoCA.

Many thanks to editor Matthew Johnson for the honor of being chosen as featured writer for this amazing issue! In addition to sixteen poems, there are pieces of fiction and creative non-fiction to enjoy, all by writers who have a connection to New England. I also love the wintry cover art by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Comments are always welcome here. Please also feel free to share the issue with your friends and family. (The link in the first paragraph is permanent, so if you are visiting this post in 2023 or later, you should still have access.)

Sweets by Wendy Stewart (ONE GOOD MEMORY Series)

Another poem from a fellow Grapevine and Boiler House Poets Collective friend as part of the Silver Birch Press ONE GOOD MEMORY series! Enjoy “Sweets” by Wendy Stewart, especially those of you who enjoy marzipan treats for Christmas.

Silver Birch Press

fieryphoenixSweets
by Wendy Stewart

For Christmas we make marzipan fruits.
They are as big as my thumbs.

Apples are round and red,
like apples. I get it.

Plums are purple like plums.
I like them best.
Bananas are yellow and long.

I say grapes and she laughs.
I get it. They’d be so little.

Once she says Oh! That one
I thought must be a real plum.

She puts them on the glass tray.
They stay set on the cold porch.

When company comes,
we offer them our candies.
She holds the tray.

I tell how my mum
was fooled by my plum:
That one.

PHOTO:Marzipan fruits by Fiery Phoenix.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote “Sweets” when my daughter was little, perhaps littler than I was in this poem, and I was missing my mother. It is a fond memory. It struck me that you don’t know what’s…

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New chapbook from Jessica Dubey!


I’m pleased to share the news that Jessica Dubey’s newest chapbook, All Those Years Underwater, is now available, either from Kelsay Books or from Amazon. If you happen to order from Amazon and don’t yet have Jessica’s chapbook For Dear Life, be sure to add it to your cart, too.

Jessica is one of my local poet-friends, part of the Grapevine Poets here in Broome County, New York, as well as the Boiler House Poets Collective. It has been my privilege to see the poems in both manuscripts develop over time and come together into power-packed chapbooks.

Jessica has a special talent for writing about difficult issues in a way that is beautiful, but searing. As Marilyn McCabe notes on the back cover of All Those Years Underwater, “Danger is so delicate in these poems; it slides like a stiletto between the ribs. The poems stare you down with their lovely eyes, even as they insert the blade.”

For more information, links to previously published poems, and contact information, visit Jessica’s website. I’m sure she would love to hear from her readers!

BHPC reunion residency 2022

My apologies for the infrequent posts as of late. There has been a string of important events and I haven’t had much time/brain for posting, but I did want to get the word out that I am back at The Studios at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) for the annual reunion residency of the Boiler House Poets Collective.

We have three first-time members joining us this year and there have been some renovations at the Studios. With ever-evolving COVID protocols in addition, things feel somehow new as we make our way together, taking the opportunity to re-vamp our usual routine.

I’m very excited that we will be doing our first public reading in several years on Friday, October 14, 2022 at 4 PM at the Artist Book Foundation in North Adams. If you are in the area, come join us for a sampler of the work of eight members of the Boiler House Poets Collective!

She Quits the Garden: A multivoice video chapbook

I’m excited to share this post from Marilyn McCabe, announcing her newly published video chapbook, She Quits the Garden.

Marilyn had shared these poems with the Boiler House Poets Collective at one of our residencies at MASS MoCA before their remarkable transformation into a multivoice video chapbook. Enjoy!

O Write: Marilynonaroll's Blog

Thrilled that this project found a home on PoetryFilmLive. As it’s a video chapbook, it’s a bit longer than my usual work, so I hope you’ll hang in there for the 10 minute run time.

https://poetryfilmlive.com/she-quits-the-garden/

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Five Poems in Wilderness House Literary Review!

I am pleased and excited to share the link to the latest quarterly issue of Wilderness House Literary Review, which features five of my poems. Many thanks to poetry editor Ravi Yelamanchili and the whole team at WHLR for including me in their spring issue. If you are reading this in Spring, 2022, you can access the current issue at the link above; scroll down to the Poetry section to find Joanne Corey in the list of poets and click, which will take you to my work. If it is beyond that, you can find the issue through the cumulative index as Volume 17.1 – Spring 2022. While you are there, browse the WHLR archive for poetry, essays, art, fiction, and book reviews going back to Spring 2006. You’re sure to find something that will fascinate and delight you!

I thought I’d use this post to give some background on the poems and submission process. As folks who have been following Top of JC’s Mind for a while know, the last few years have been challenging for me as my family navigated the difficult last years of B’s mom and my parents, as well as the joy of welcoming a new generation to our family coupled with the complications of having them live across an ocean from us with the pandemic adding another layer of stress.

Because of all that, I was sandwiching in writing in a rather haphazard way and not concentrating on submissions. When I did begin making myself do the fraught work of preparing submissions, I concentrated on sending out my chapbook and collection manuscripts rather than journal submissions. Usually, a goodly number of poems in a manuscript have already been published in journals and I knew that I needed to get individual poems published as journal publications are the backbone of sharing poetry. Knowing that I was struggling with doing journal submissions, my wise poet-friend Merrill Oliver Douglas counseled me to choose five poems that I liked and send them out to a bunch of journals without stressing over style or if the poems related to each other or any of the other things that were keeping me paralyzed. I did that in early February. I chose to submit to WHLR because they were one of the first journals to publish my work back in Fall, 2015, just as I was getting more deliberate about publishing my poetry and just before we entered into our intensive phase with elder care. I thought there might be one or two of the five that would interest them but I was shocked and amazed that they accepted all five. (Being a good poetry citizen, I immediately withdrew the poems from all other journals to which I had submitted them.)

The rest of this post will give some of the background to the poems. You can choose to read them first, using the links in the first paragraph, or read the rest of the post first and the poems afterwards. I’ll write about the poems in the order in which they appear.

Starting off with a trigger warning, especially for family and friends who may not be ready to read “We probably should have taken off”, which is about the death of my father, known here as Paco. I wrote the first draft in the middle of the night while I was at the Boiler House Poets Collective residency only a couple of weeks after Paco’s death and workshopped it there. I did revisions and workshopped it again with the Grapevine Poets in October – and then couldn’t bear to look at it again for several months. I did the final edits in order to send it out this winter because I knew from the reaction of the poets who had seen the drafts that it was a strong poem. It’s sometimes hard for me to tell objectively when something is strong if it is also close to me emotionally. I had originally written this poem by hand in a journal and tried to replicate the spacing I had used when I put it into the computer. The use of white space seemed to fit the mood of the poem and is a frequently employed device in contemporary poetry, although some online journals advise against it because it can be hard to replicate in their publishing software. My original rendition is probably even “spacier” than the published version due to being on a larger page.

“Sprague Suite” is an ekphrastic poem based on the exhibit Transition: Decade of Decision, Sprague Electric>>MASS MoCA, 1989-1999 by Christopher Gillooly, which was on display there in 2018. When I was at our Boiler House residency that year, I felt as if it was my second home. I was drawn to it because it told the history of the former industrial site which is now home to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. I am from the North Adams area, so I also have a personal perspective on that history. The six sections of “Sprague Suite” relate to Sprague Electric, which occupied the site for several decades until 1986, manufacturing capacitors. For fun, I also played a bit with form in this poem. Sections I and VI are haiku and II and V are tanka. III and IV are my go-to, free verse. “Industrial Buddha”, the title of section V, is the name of a collage sculpture of found objects that was part of the exhibit. This poem is part of my full-length poetry collection which is currently submitted to several contests and publishers.

“In my purse” began as a Binghamton Poetry Project prompt in fall of 2020. We were studying list poems and the power of juxtaposition. I’m a fan of list poems and had written several previously. When we write from prompts, we only have about ten minutes to draft, so the poems tend to be relatively short. There is also so little time to plan or ponder that words often fall onto the page in unexpected ways, which is perfect for a list poem where juxtaposition is everything. Thinking this quickly-generated draft had potential, I decided to workshop it with Grapevine and revise it to send out to journals. I’m so happy it has found a home at Wilderness House Literary Review!

“Zoom Wedding – October 4, 2020” also began as a Binghamton Poetry Project prompt in summer 2020. We were to begin a poem with a line from Ocean Vuong’s searing “Aubade with Burning City” about the final evacuation from Saigon in 1975. We were, however, to take our poem in a different direction. I chose the line, “He fills a teacup with champagne, brings it to her lips.” Given that we were then in the early months of the pandemic with public health rules making large gatherings impossible, I recast the line to open the story of a couple forced to cancel a long-planned June wedding and instead hold it in October via Zoom, which, for future readers who might see this after Zoom has been merged, renamed, or supplanted by newer technologies, is a video conferencing platform that gained ascendency when everything from business meetings to church services to family gatherings had to be cancelled or held virtually instead of in person. I began the draft during our BPP session and finished it the next day. I workshopped it with the Grapevine Poets, but then set it aside. I made some revisions in order to send it out this winter. I wasn’t sure if it would appeal to anyone as most people are trying to move beyond the pandemic, even though it hasn’t ended. Thankfully, with vaccines and treatments available, in-person gatherings are much safer in 2022 than they were in 2020.

“Monroe Bridge Mail” was drafted in May 2021 as I prepared to go on a private writing retreat back to North Adams to finish the manuscript which I referenced in the “Sprague Suite” section above. While I went to high school in North Adams, my actual hometown is Monroe Bridge, then home to about two hundred people, about twenty miles distant. I wanted to have some more Monroe Bridge poems in the collection, so I wrote this about our post office. I chose to employ a more conversational, storyteller mode, with long sentences and asides. It is a lot of fun to read aloud, which I had the opportunity to do at the Vestal Museum last summer.

Whew! Long post. If you have made it this far, thank you and congratulations! Please feel free to comment below. I love to know what people are thinking about my poems and/or posts.

Nebra Sky Disk

I sometimes write poems in response to the Ekphrastic Challenge prompts from The Ekphrastic Review. I have been honored to have my poems chosen for publication on a few occasions and have taken to publishing the ones that were not chosen here at Top of JC’s Mind.

Just up today are responses to the Nebra Sky Disk, including one by my friend and fellow Boiler House Poets Collective member, Kyle Laws. You can see the artwork and the chosen responses here. My poem follows. As always, comments are welcome.

Nebra Sky Disk

Who buried you,
hid you from the sun,
the moon,

the stars,
as if the earth
could dim your essence?

Did they seek
with soil and swords and hatchets
to protect you from marauders

who might take you away,
where your arcs would not
be wedded to the sun?

They could not know
the buried centuries,
the indignity

of damage by looters,
of clandestine sales,
your glory hoarded.

Finally brought back to light,
to the descendents of your people,
your gold shining their place beneath

the sun,
the moon,
the stars,

the burnished sky.

Avalon–Marilyn McCabe

I’m excited to share with you a newly published videopoem from the Boiler House Poets Collective! We worked on the poem itself during our residency last fall with the marvelous Marilyn McCabe designing and producing the video. Many thanks to Masque and Spectacle Journal for publishing it.

This is an exquisite corpse poem, which is a technique for composing a poem with a group. One poet writes a line. The second writes a line following it and folds the paper so that only that line is showing. Each subsequent poet follows suit, only seeing the last line added. With eight poets, we did two rounds, generating this 16 line poem. The visual element was taken from our beloved namesake, the Boiler House at MASS MoCA. Enjoy!

Masque & Spectacle

“Avalon” is an exquisite corpse composition from a group of poets in residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, where the video images were also taken.

***
The Boiler House Poets meet every fall at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art for a weeklong residency to develop work individually and as a group. They are: Joanne Corey, Marilyn McCabe, Ann Dernier, Gail DiMaggio, Jessica Dubey, Kyle Laws, Katherine Morgan, Erica Bodwell. All have published poems in literary magazines and/or as collections through a variety of poetry presses. Video producer Marilyn McCabe’s videos have appeared in literary magazines, film festivals, and galleries: MarilynOnaRoll.wordpress.com.

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Unseen

Sometimes, when I haven’t written a poem in a while, I try to write tanka, which is a Japanese form that, when executed in English, is 31 syllables in 5 lines with a turn at the fourth line.

At other times, I will use a prompt to get me started. These can be written specifically as prompts or can be other works of art which serves as a springboard. Poems that are responses to artwork are known as ekphrastic poems. I write them relatively often because I have been part of the Boiler House Poets Collective since 2015. During our residencies at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, we often write ekphrastic work with most of us choosing to do this throughout the year.

One of my Boiler House poet-friends, Kyle Laws, introduced me to the Ekphrastic Writing Challenges from The Ekphrastic Review. I have been fortunate to have had several poems of my poems appear as selected response to challenges.

Earlier this month, I submitted a tanka in response to this challenge, the painting Blind Girl Reading, by Ejnar Nielsen (Denmark) 1905. You can see the painting at the link, as well as read the selected poems and short fiction in response.

While my poem was not chosen, I thought I’d share it here:

Unseen

In darkness, pale fingers
glide over pages bound
heavy in her lap –
the only light, electric
impulse from fingers to mind.

Comments are welcome, if you are so moved. (There’s nothing like writing a six paragraph post to present a five line poem!)
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/28/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-28th-2022/

two chapbooks to order!

I’m excited to share pre-order news for two forthcoming chapbooks by Boiler House Poets Collective members through Finishing Line Press. It was my privilege to be involved in manuscript reviews with the poets for both chapbooks, so I know firsthand that they are fantastic!

Girl, Woman, Bird by Katherine (Kay) Morgan encompasses personal and national history and the natural world, especially birds. Kay also shares her gift for ekphrastic poems in this chapbook, as one might expect from one of the original Boiler House poets who met during a residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, although the art that invokes these poems is not all contemporary. Girl, Woman, Bird is available for pre-order now and will begin to ship on March 18th.

For Dear Life by Jessica Dubey reflects on the impacts of her husband’s brain surgery and recovery on their lives. Besides being a member of Boiler House, Jessica is also part of my local poetry workshop, the Grapevine Group, so I was able to witness the creation of this chapbook poem by poem. Jessica’s ability to take us through such difficult terrain is stunning. For Dear Life may be ordered now for shipment beginning May 13.

Check out the links for additional information and ordering. I already have my orders in for both!
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/16/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-16th-2022/

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